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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Go See This: Crime After Crime

In between last minute hectic tasks surrounding my daughter’s wedding, I finally managed to squeeze in watching the screener of Sundance doc Crime After Crime that came in the mail the other day. The film is playing LA and NY through July 14 before expanding to a city near you.

If you happen to live in Rochester, NY, my former adopted hometown, you can catch it at one of my fave old haunts, the Little Theater, July 14 as a part of the Ames-Amzalak Rochester Jewish Film Festival, and if you’re in San Francisco, you can catch it July 24 at the Castro during the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. If you’re in neither of those places, there’s a nice list of limited release cities — including Seattle — where you’ll be able to catch it. And if you haven’t seen yet, even if you think docs about social justice are boring, trust me on this … get thee to a theater and see this film.

Crime After Crime follows the lengthy pro bono battle by a pair of attorneys who normally practice land use law to free Debbie Peagler, who in 1983 pled guilty to first degree murder in the death of her husband, Oliver Wilson, who, it was documented in legal papers, battered, harassed and threatened her and sexually abused her daughter. Director Yoav Potash unravels Debbie’s complex legal case with exemplary storytelling that tracks the eight year long battle undertaken by Josh Safran and Nadia Costa to gain justice and freedom for Debbie under a California law that allows the cases of battered women in prison for a crime related to their abuse to be reheard with that evidence taken into consideration.

The film is skillfully edited and scored, weaving eight years of events into a seamlessly told story that makes excellent use of suspense and emotion; if you don’t want to throttle everyone in the LA District Attorneys office — especially former DA Steve Cooley, who gave Safran and Costa a letter agreeing to lower the charges against Debbie to manslaughter (which carried a six-year maximum sentence in 1983) and set her free, only to renege on that promise shortly thereafter — well, I expect you’d be in the minority among those who see this film.

Crime After Crime‘s socio-political and racial implications are reminiscent of another doc that debuted at Sundance, Tia Lessin and Carl Deal’s excellent Oscar-nommed Trouble the Water, about the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina and the breaking of the levee on poor African-American New Orlean’s residents.

I love docs about all kinds of subjects. Where narratives tell our stories, documentaries capture slices of our history and our humanity in all their moments of light and darkness. Crime After Crime reveals both the darker and lighter sides of human nature, but dwells most heavily on the light, through Safran and Costa, of course, for their tireless effort to free Debbie Peagler, a woman they didn’t even know when they agreed to take on her case, but most especially for Debbie herself, who personifies grace, dignity and humanity through trial and tribulation most of us couldn’t begin to imagine living through.

See this film. You can see when it’s coming to a city near you — or request that it screen in your town if it isn’t slated there yet — right here on the film’s website.

Here’s the film’s trailer:

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One of the great movies. Charles Bronson, great, Charles Bronson. Great movies. Today you can’t make that movie because it’s not politically correct, right? It’s not politically correct. But could you imagine with Trump? Somebody says, oh, all these big monsters aren’t around he’s easy pickings and then shoot.”
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